The problem of setting in urban fantasy - RPG Crossing
RPG Crossing Home Forums Create An Account! Site Rules & Help

RPG Crossing
Go Back   RPG Crossing > Feedback & User Resources > Gaming Advice
twitter facebook

Notices

Reply
 
Thread Tools
  #1  
Old Oct 12th, 2020, 08:48 PM
Menzo's Avatar
Menzo Menzo is offline
Community Supporter
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Jun 12th, 2021
RPXP: 2960
Menzo Menzo Menzo Menzo Menzo Menzo Menzo Menzo Menzo Menzo Menzo
Posts: 577
The problem of setting in urban fantasy

I've been working on an urban fantasy game for a little while. I've got a solid premise, a clear idea about tone and the types of adventures I want to run, and a (mostly complete) D&D 5e-compatible set of rules that I think will work well. In that sense, I'm pretty much ready to go.

However, the main stumbling block for me is setting. In a home game, with everyone sitting around a table, the choice of setting is obvious - the town or city the players live in, or one close by that they'd be very familiar with.

But in a PbP or other online game, you don't have that setup. Your players could be from anywhere in the world. To get around this, you might set the game in a city that is relatively famous, like New York or London or Paris. But since I don't live in those cities, or even in the same country that those cities are in, I don't feel like I have the necessary experience to set my games in them.

I could set the game in the city I live in, but that just exchanges the problem. Instead of 1 DM that isn't particularly familiar with the setting, you just get 6 players that aren't familiar with the setting. Because I feel pretty sure that very few players on this site live in the same city I do.

What do people think are potential solutions to this problem?

Last edited by Menzo; Oct 12th, 2020 at 08:49 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old Oct 12th, 2020, 09:39 PM
Chrystrom's Avatar
Chrystrom Chrystrom is online now
Fork! Knife! Spoon!
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Jun 17th, 2021
RPXP: 20127
Chrystrom Chrystrom Chrystrom Chrystrom Chrystrom Chrystrom Chrystrom Chrystrom Chrystrom Chrystrom Chrystrom
Posts: 7,945
Well one solution is to set it in the setting you as the DM are familiar with and then set it so that the characters are not assumed to know anything about the city. Maybe they are out of town visitors, tourists, business people there for work...and then whatever sets the ball rolling for the actual game happens. That way you have the required knowledge to do the setting justice but you can work with players that do not have that say level of knowledge for the city.

+
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old Oct 12th, 2020, 09:40 PM
Spoonybard's Avatar
Spoonybard Spoonybard is online now
Community Supporter
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Jun 17th, 2021
RPXP: 6583
Spoonybard Spoonybard Spoonybard Spoonybard Spoonybard Spoonybard Spoonybard Spoonybard Spoonybard Spoonybard Spoonybard
Posts: 1,097
Some ideas that came to mind:

1. Ask that the PCs are all newcomers to the city. Then you can use a city you're familiar with and players can excuse their lack of knowledge. Everything they need they can find on google maps, which is essentially what the PCs would do if they needed to get around anyway. It may also give them the opportunity to focus on the immigrant experience, which can provide an interesting perspective to your story.

2. Make up your own city, a la Batman's Gotham City or Grand Theft Auto's San Andreas. You don't have to convey an actual city, just the idea of a city. You'll have more work to do when it comes to maps, but you can completely control the setting and make it work for your story instead of working with a set map.
__________________
I am running a series of open enrollment Legend of the Five Rings beginner games. Check out the recruitment thread for details.
I have taken the Oath of Sangus.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old Oct 12th, 2020, 10:40 PM
zevonian's Avatar
zevonian zevonian is offline
137 NPSG Graduates
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Jun 17th, 2021
RPXP: 39192
zevonian zevonian zevonian zevonian zevonian zevonian zevonian zevonian zevonian zevonian zevonian
Posts: 33,152
Ever see the movie Dark City, starring Rufus Sewell?

The city the characters think they know isn't necessarily the city that the players can look up on with a search engine.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old Oct 13th, 2020, 09:01 AM
Imveros's Avatar
Imveros Imveros is online now
Community Supporter
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Jun 17th, 2021
RPXP: 39351
Imveros Imveros Imveros Imveros Imveros Imveros Imveros Imveros Imveros Imveros Imveros
Posts: 11,048
The Harry Dresden RPG has a mechanic for creating a cust city as the final character for the party. The mechanics work quite well if you want to glance over them

It may be FATE based, but it is urban fantasy so it's half way there
__________________
Outplay 2021 recruiting now! Show us what you got!
Join the RPGX caption contest! *Your witty text here*
Have you heard that we have an unofficial Discord server? Come say hi!
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old Oct 13th, 2020, 06:49 PM
HotsuSama's Avatar
HotsuSama HotsuSama is offline
The bird with the words
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Jun 17th, 2021
RPXP: 10433
HotsuSama HotsuSama HotsuSama HotsuSama HotsuSama HotsuSama HotsuSama HotsuSama HotsuSama HotsuSama HotsuSama
Posts: 3,166
I'm personally of Spoony's approach of a 'stand-in' city. They usually closely embody a particular real-life location (e.g. Superman's Metropolis is basically New York City) so you can get the feel of a particular city or part of the world without being beholden to every minor detail about that city's actual layout or little cultural nuances non-locals wouldn't grasp.
__________________
RUNNING: Omega Blue [SWN], Do Good in the World [FATE] | WORLDBUILDING: Ethereal Lands
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old Oct 13th, 2020, 09:22 PM
TADHG's Avatar
TADHG TADHG is offline
Descent Gaming Bradenton
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Jun 12th, 2021
RPXP: 1941
TADHG TADHG TADHG TADHG TADHG TADHG TADHG TADHG TADHG TADHG TADHG
Posts: 779
I have to agree with some others here. A native might know "Ed's Bar" on the corner of this street and this Avenue, and that it's across from a gas station, but you don't care. You can set your businesses any way you want to, once you have a grid map.

I live in a smallish city, and I find myself going to the same ten places or so. All in the same part of town.
__________________
It doesn't even matter.

Last edited by TADHG; Oct 14th, 2020 at 06:08 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old Oct 15th, 2020, 12:23 PM
kingmonkey's Avatar
kingmonkey kingmonkey is offline
Tactically Fabulous
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Jun 16th, 2021
RPXP: 13442
kingmonkey kingmonkey kingmonkey kingmonkey kingmonkey kingmonkey kingmonkey kingmonkey kingmonkey kingmonkey kingmonkey
Posts: 5,291
How about a meta-city. Depending on the nature of the magic in your urban fantasy setting, why not have a sort of demi-plane which is an expansive city that is linked to every town or city on Earth (whatever world). The meta-city is the sort of a manifestation of the human desire for "civilization", and is in turn shaped by the cities it has helped to build. The meta-city is part New York, part London, part Moscow, part Tokyo, part every small town, part every suburb.

Maybe the meta-city can be accessed only at certain points in time and space, from other cities (never from the wilderness). Tiny stairwells discretely placed in subways or beneath sidewalks, remote corner alleyways, backdoors of abandoned stores, and usually only by those who know how to get to the meta-city, or by those the meta-city chooses to induct into its strangeness.

Just an idea.
__________________
Somehow a host of RPGX Radio!
This can only end well.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old Oct 15th, 2020, 02:43 PM
roninkelt's Avatar
roninkelt roninkelt is offline
Artist & Warrior
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Mar 24th, 2021
RPXP: 4663
roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt
Posts: 2,928
I'd not worry about being too true to life. The first few Dresden Files books were written and the author had never been to the city. There are more than a few errors compared to the real city. It's a game and I wouldn't expect absolute realism, as long as you make it interesting as a GM. Realistically speaking, it's almost impossible for a game to be totally realistic in it's representation of a city as they tend to grow and change over time, sometimes quite radically.
__________________
Be a Community Supporter | Build Better Characters | Nominate a Post of the Month

Every time I close the door on reality, it comes in through the windows.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old Nov 15th, 2020, 11:12 AM
farothel's Avatar
farothel farothel is offline
Adult Dragon
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Apr 21st, 2021
RPXP: 64
farothel
Posts: 133
Depending on the type of game, you can use a well-known city but add or remove stuff from it. What almost all World of Darkness games do. It's a standard city, but the vampires/werewolves/mages/... are something extra. You're players might know the basic stuff from the city, but not the supernatural stuff as they never have been exposed to it.

There are also a lot of resources online you can use. Looking stuff up on google maps, checking some articles on wikipedia can give you a basic idea of what a city looks like.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old Nov 15th, 2020, 03:38 PM
roninkelt's Avatar
roninkelt roninkelt is offline
Artist & Warrior
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Mar 24th, 2021
RPXP: 4663
roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt roninkelt
Posts: 2,928
IMO the key thing is to get the feel of the city right. cities in the northeast of the US have a very different feel than most of the rest of the country as they are usually much older. As you head south and west, they start to feel more similar and more modern with a few exceptions like Savannah, Georgia or New Orleans, Louisiana. Getting it right is just a matter of doing some research - watching movies or documentaries about or set in the city in question is a good start.

I don't think your players are going to call you out on any differences, and if they do, let them spend the equivalent of a Fate Point (or Inspiration or Hero Point) to make it true.
__________________
Be a Community Supporter | Build Better Characters | Nominate a Post of the Month

Every time I close the door on reality, it comes in through the windows.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old Jun 6th, 2021, 05:52 PM
Djinn and Tonic's Avatar
Djinn and Tonic Djinn and Tonic is offline
Very Young Dragon
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Jun 15th, 2021
RPXP: 69
Djinn and Tonic
Posts: 6
If I may, I would recommend the Damnation City sourcebook for Vampire: The Requiem 1e. It’s a tool box to help you build your own city setting from the ground up. I find it to be a great resource, and it’s especially appropriate to urban fantasy and modern horror.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old Jun 10th, 2021, 04:11 PM
Talissen70 Talissen70 is offline
Very Young Dragon
 
Tools
User Statistics
Last Visit: Jun 17th, 2021
RPXP: 50
Talissen70
Posts: 11
I have played in a survival game where the DM used google maps and had us navigate the UK that way, ready-made world and features
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off



All times are GMT -4. The time now is 01:34 PM.
Skin by Birched, making use of original art by paiute.( 2009-2012)


RPG Crossing, Copyright ©2003 - 2021, RPG Crossing Inc; powered by vBulletin, Copyright ©2000 - 2021, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd. Template-Modifications by TMB